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LOP Solidarity Statement With the Farmworkers

January 9, 2003

To our Sisters and brothers of el Movimiento El Campo No Aguanta Mas:

On behalf of the Laotian Organizing Project, we stand in solidarity with you who continue to fast in protest to the devastation of families, communities and the land due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Our members are from Laos as refugees to the U.S. due to Vietnam War. We understand the impacted in loosing our homes, land, families and most importantly, our dignity, self determination and way of life. As refugees in the U.S, we face discrimination in many different ways. We live in a toxic community where big corporations like Chevron oil refinery and General Chemical Company pollute & poison us, and we face a housing crisis with rents so high, that many families cannot afford to pay them.

We share the pain and injustice with you, your families, and your communities impacted by NAFTA. We understand how it impacts your families, community, and the land. We understand how it impacts local farmers and workers and results in economic hardship. All of our members were farmers back in Laos. As we exchanged at our workshop at Summit II, People of Color Environmental Justice Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., we share that way of life and have a lot in common in our struggles and experiences.

We support the demand that NAFTA either be eliminated or changed to prioritize respecting the local community and indigenous people's rights and dignity before corporate profit. The local community and indigenous people must be given a voice and true democratic representation in the re-evaluation of agricultural and other programs that impacted by NAFTA. We support the local community and indigenous people must be respect and given the right to make decision of how their life and community should be, not by industry greed.

As your sisters and brothers in this multiracial, multicultural, multitribal and multinational movement for environmental and economic justice, we can't join you in person. However, we want you to know that we are joining you in spirit and soul in this struggle for self-determination, for dignity and sustainability of our values and life. As you read this letter, we believe that your spirits will be stronger & that justice will prevail over corporate greed.

In Solidarity,
Khamphay Phahongchanh
Ying Pu Saelee

REPLY from Carlos Marentes of the Farmworkers Network

"Thanks a lot for your letter of solidarity. The support of LOP is very valuable to us because we (border farm workers) identify with your struggle. As you may already know, the Movimiento El Campo No Aguanta Mas (The fields can't take it anymore!) initiated their movement on Dec. 31, 2002. ...We are participating in this movement, along with many border organizations such as La Mujer Obrera, the Border Immigrant Rights Network, etc., because the precarious situation faced by peasants south of the border are tied to the situation we face in this nation as immigrants and as farm workers. We all intend to intensify our efforts in view of the resistance to change the current neoliberal policies that keep creating poverty, displacement and inequality. The support and solidarity of organizations, such as LOP and APEN, also struggling for better conditions for our people is vital.

I will keep you informed about our efforts and I take this opportunity to wish you and everybody many successes in 2003."

Carlos Marentes

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